Greece passes law on residency for illegal immigrants

December 24, 2023
Greece on Tuesday passed a bill by a majority of 262 votes that would allow migrants to obtain residence and work permits to fill vacant positions. The country's 300-member parliament has passed by roll call a landmark bill that would allow immigrants to obtain three-year residence and work permits to address Greece's labor shortage. This represents a positive development for undocumented workers in this country. UN agencies have praised the law, which was drafted by the center-right government. Parliament approved the amendment to existing legislation on migration with a wide majority of 262 votes on Tuesday afternoon. Former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who governed Greece from 2012 to 2015 and remains an MP, had publicly voiced his fierce opposition to the bill, saying that it would serve to "attract illegal immigrants". However, the New Democracy party imposed party discipline on MPs to vote in favour of the bill, threatening to expel any that did not.

'Strong vote of confidence for Mitsotakis'

"I have said what I had a duty to say, and anyone who wants to understand has understood," Samaras said after voting. Greek immigration minister Dimitris Kairidis commented following the end of the vote that "broad parliamentary acceptance of the legislative initiative of the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum for the employment of third-country nationals in Greece, with 262 votes, is a strong vote of confidence in the policy of the government of Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the immigration issue." He added: "Where in other countries immigration is divisive, in Greece, the government is achieving wider consensus and showing the way to the rest of Europe for an effective immigration policy. A policy that combines the strict guarding of the borders and the crackdown on the illegal trafficking of immigrants with the facilitation of legal immigration, clearly defined, with conditions and rules, in accordance with the needs of the Greek economy and the priorities of its society." The minister vowed to "continue to work, implementing realistic policies that bring results," in line with the mandate given to the government by the Greek people.

Amendment to fill gap created by low-paid workers who moved on

The amendment, which was tabled last Friday in the Greek parliament, applies to around 30,000 undocumented migrants from non-EU countries who crossed into Greece irregularly and have been employed, albeit irregularly, for a minimum of three years. It also reduces the wait from six to two months for asylum-seekers who want to enter the Greek labor market. The legislation, entitled Professional Insurance Reform, is currently being processed by the relevant parliamentary committee. It defines those eligible for the permit as: People who have a job offer from an employer in Greece under the status of dependent labor or provision of work services; people who resided in Greece until November 30, 2023 without a residence permit; people who continue to reside in the country beyond the above-mentioned date and people who have completed at least three years of continuous residence in Greece. The deadline for migrants to submit applications for this permit is December 31, 2024. The new amendment has come about because Greece's labor market is struggling to fill positions in lower-paid rural and agricultural jobs due to an exodus of other migrant workers -- such as Albanians -- who are moving to other European countries.

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